Meet The Travel Startup That Puts A Personal Planning Assistant In Your Favorite Chat App
PSFK speaks to the CEO of Eddy Travels, a voice-activated, personalized travel planning AI for digital and mobile-first consumers, about reinventing the traveler experience with a unified, chat-based platform
•Eddy Travels is the AI-enabled personal travel concierge that lives inside consumers' favorite chat application, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Slack and more.
•The voice-activated assistant implements a custom natural language processing system designed to provide a simplified and tailored travel planning experience and unite previously disparate elements, from booking economical flights and finding the best hotels to recommending personalized activities.
•PSFK spoke to CEO and co-founder Edmundas Balčikonis about designing a digital travel assistant where today's mobile-first travelers already spend their time, detailing how it solves for issues like platform switching and irrelevancy with an experience that lets individuals and groups just send Eddy a text or voice message to book what they need.
PSFK: What did you notice about the travel consumer experience that you wanted to do differently?
Edmundas Balcikonis: I'm an avid traveler myself. I was using probably at least 20 different platform services, websites and apps to organize my travels. I would constantly switch between Kayaks, Booking.com, Airbnb, Skyscanner, you name it to find the best deals.
I would get spammed by all of these platforms by email, or on mobile apps, or get push notifications. Rarely, they would be personalized to my needs. They would all be different offers, and wouldn't correlate. These platforms don't talk to each other. I'm a big fan of having a human‑like, simple UI in software.
I saw this gap in the market, that there was an opportunity for technology to provide better, personalized travel recommendations and do it across the board. If a platform knows that I'm flying from United States to Colombia, then it could also recommend me a safe district to stay in, apartment or a hotel, the right travel insurance, tours and activities, and so on. I saw chatbots and chat apps as being a perfect medium to deliver this experience.
What kinds of consumer insights and data went into designing this personalized and comprehensive experience?
At the time, I was staying in quite a few of these digital nomad communities, co‑living accommodation providers. I was working from co‑working spaces. I started from asking around. I think I interviewed a good 50 people about how they book travel. That got me started. After that, I started working on a first prototype.
For the chat capability, we started from Viber but quite quickly realized that Facebook Messenger is the most popular platform and the most developed for chatbots in general and we switched to that.
The rest was live user research like watching how consumers use our app. We got access to Skyscanner data. Then we started following metrics, a very lean, agile way of software development of quickly getting real user feedback, seeing what works and what doesn't.
So far, how has consumer response been? How are consumers engaging with Eddy Travels?
It's primarily online. Our chatbot is available on the most popular chat apps: Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, also Slack, and Viber, and Telegram.
We promote ourselves through social media and base the advertising on social media platforms a lot. We also create online communities, groups of travelers, digital nomads, people from specific cities looking for the best travel deals.
Through these groups, we get continuous engagement from a specific group of people. Then we can compare their usage and engagement. We do, of course, data advertising and we also create various online content about travel, about chatbots.
Finally, what's next for Eddy Travels?
Lately, we started participating in conferences. We built our own unique language processing for travel context, especially for flights. Through conferences, we found that our partners and our travel competitors are interested in our language processing and chatbot as a service. For the future, we're starting to also work with businesses white‑labeling our chatbot techtravelnology.